Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Orwell Prize judges for blogging accused of Left Liberal bias - both judges associated with the Labour Party

Monday, 9 January 2012, 16:39
Hi Gavin
I wish to draw your attention to the blatant hostility shown by Suzanne Moore towards me and would question the wisdom and impartiality of having two such Labour-supporting judges for the Orwell Prize.   

May I suggest that Suzanne be replaced by someone with Eurosceptic views who has previously expressed concern about the institutions of marriage and family as well as immigration?

That would then redress the disgraceful appearance of bias on the part of the Orwell Prize and keep its reputation intact.   

May I in this instance suggest Sir Paul Coleridge.

Claire Khaw

Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 10:24

Hi Claire,

Many thanks for your email.

Our judges are asked to put their political views to one side when judging – there is an injunction to be impartial. They are required to assess the quality of the writing which is put in front of them to judge (guided by the list of Orwell’s ‘Values’ at

We are confident that this year’s judges will judge in this way, as previous ones have done. Previous judges have not been afraid to select winners whose political views differ from their own (the selection of Peter Hitchens by Roger Graef and Peter Kellner is a case in point), and to select judges purely by their politics rather than their ability to do the job would be potentially dangerous.

Best wishes

Gavin Freeguard | Deputy Director, The Orwell Prize | Senior Editor, Media Standards Trust

0207 229 5722 | | 5/7 Vernon Yard | Portobello Road | London W11 2DX

Wednesday, 11 January 2012, 13:45

Hi Gavin
Thank you for your message of reassurance, but I do not think you can call any of these bloggers who won the blogging prize as not Left Liberal.  Graeme Archer may be a member of the Conservative Party,  but he is openly gay, which would make him OK for the Liberal Left judges.
Blog category
2009 Richard Horton: "NightJack– An English Detective"
2010 Winston Smith (pseudonym): "Working with the Underclass"
2011 Graeme Archer: ConservativeHome

Johann Hari is of course not mentioned because the prize has been withdrawn, but there is no denying that he is a man of the Left.

As you say, "to select judges purely by their politics rather than their ability to do the job would be potentially dangerous" and we are certainly living in dangerous times.

Suzanne Moore has expressed open hostility to me on more than one occasion, because of my views on Feminism and Never Married Mothers.  I understand she is one herself.

Also, both Hopi Sen and Suzanne Moore are associated with the Labour Party.
Is the Orwell Prize comfortable with saying, more or less, in a loud stage whisper:

"Anyone with non-Left Liberal views and who has anything to do with UKIP or the BNP and who questions the current liberal orthodoxy as regards feminism, immigration and the welfare state need not apply"? 

Does that have echoes of "Blacks and Irish need not apply" - signs that I have read were once displayed outside B&Bs in this country?

May I suggest that at least the appearance of impartiality be given this year to avoid the Orwell Prize falling into disrepute, and another judge with openly Conservative, traditional and Eurosceptic views be chosen, especially if they have expressed concern about immigration and wish to decriminalise fox-hunting.

I have already suggested Sir Paul Coleridge.  

Roger Scruton, Peter Hitchens, Abhijit Pandya, Melanie Phillips, A N Wilson and Theodore Dalrymple come to mind.  

It is in my view even more important that the blogging prize be impartial because, while people may wonder why prominent Conservative journalists they regularly read and respect never win the Orwell Prize, they will tend  not to care about an unknown whom they  have never heard of and who will never be heard of if Suzanne Moore gets her way.   

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes
Claire Khaw

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art.

My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience…. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.

George Orwell, Why I Write

Orwell was a self-conscious writer: he cared not only about what he wrote, but how he wrote it. His assessment of what makes for good writing – and bad writing – is as relevant to writing and journalism today as it was when he was writing, and as such, should underpin the Prizes awarded in his name.

‘Political’ is defined in the widest sense; as Orwell wrote in ‘Politics and the English Language’:

In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.

Entries should show:

Political purpose

Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after (Why I Write)


Good prose is like a windowpane (Why I Write)

Intellectual courage

Intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face… If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)

When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink (Politics and the English Language)

Freedom of the intellect means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings (The Prevention of Literature)

Critical thought

To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment (Proposed Preface to Animal Farm)

Artful writing

Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed (Why I Write)

Entries should avoid:

staleness of imagery… [and] lack of precision… by using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself (Politics and the English Language)

Above all, entries should share Orwell’s ambition:

to make political writing into an art. 

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